Criss Angel is more than a master of illusion; he is a master of coming up with really, really good names for stuff. He dubbed himself “Mindfreak,” for god’s sake. He started an industrial rock band called “Angeldust,” and titled his first album Musical Conjurings From the World of Illusion. The man has a gift. When he announced, earlier this week, that he was opening a restaurant outside of Las Vegas, you’d think he would use that gift to name it something incredible—like “DineFreak,” perhaps, or maybe “AngelFood.” Instead, he decided to call it “Cablp.”
Yes: Cablp. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Cablp—which is pronounced “ka-blip,” though no one would ever say it that way unless you told them they were supposed to—stands for “Criss Angel’s breakfast, lunch, and pizza.” It’s going to serve breakfast, lunch, and pizza to the residents of Overton, Nevada, and those who pass through the small hamlet 65 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
Cablp is just the latest in a long, sordid line of restaurants given terrible names by their celebrity owners, from Guy Fieri’s “Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen & Bar” to Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie’s Italian.” Boring as they may be, those names at least make sense. Cablp, on the other hand, is incomprehensible. The more one thinks about this name—this cluster of letters smashed together with abandon, flagrantly defying the bounds of the English language—one can’t help but wonder: Could Cablp be the worst name for a restaurant… of all time?
In an effort to answer that question with some measure of objectivity, VICE called up Joseph Szala, the founder and managing director of Vigor, a restaurant branding and marketing agency. Szala—who’s been in the business for more than a decade, and whose clients include Zaxby’s, Steak & Shake, and a number of regional chains—has come across a lot of terrible restaurant names in his time. If anyone would know if Cablp is truly the worst in human history, it would be him.
VICE: Tell me your thoughts on “Cablp” as a name for a restaurant.
Joseph Szala: A name essentially needs to do a few things to be effective. It needs to be interesting and intriguing, which, this one ticks the box. If you can spark curiosity, you have an absolute win. And then it has to deliver a story. It has to be something deeper. And I think that's where this really starts to fail. Because Criss Angel’s—what is it, breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
Breakfast, lunch, and pizza.
“Criss Angel’s breakfast, lunch, and pizza” is incredibly banal and forgettable. And that's a big failure.
How would you pronounce Cablp?
“Kay-blip”? “Cab-lib”? It’s definitely a doozy. Pronunciation, it's kind of a plus-minus, meaning, we don't really care if someone can't say the name, because it's not going to necessarily prevent them from going to the place. But that's within reason. So, for instance, Häagen-Dazs—we know how to say it because of its prevalence, but at first, how do you say it? “Hey-gen-days?” It doesn’t matter. I bet you know someone who can’t say Chipotle. They probably say “Chi-pol-tee.” It doesn’t matter—they're still gonna go. But with this one, it is remarkably impossible to pronounce it. And I wouldn't mind that so much if, when the meaning of the word were unfurled, it was profound, and there was an “a-ha” moment. But that doesn't exist. It's simply “Criss Angel’s breakfast, lunch, and pizza.” For a brand spearheaded by a magician—a prestidigitator extraordinaire—you would expect something magical. And it’s incredibly not.
I'm sure you've heard a lot of bad restaurant names. How does “Cablp” stack up to some of those?
I would rate this pretty darn low. There have been ones that we identified as being off-brand, or not doing a good job of delivering on the brand story, or that combination of sparking intrigue and then delivering a unique, profound story. But I can’t think of any other bad names that were, like, notable. This is notably bad.
Could “Cablp” be the worst restaurant name of all time?
[Long pause.] Yeah, it really could be. I immediately went to, like, Hooters, and Tilted Kilt, and Twin Peaks, and I'm like, God, those are just so awful. But through the lens of the brand, they're actually great names, and that brand is just not for me. So yeah, it might be the worst name I've ever heard. And maybe that’s the magic: This is so remarkably bad that you have to pay attention.
Cablp is going to serve a burger called the “Mindfreak,” which has cheddar cheese, barbecue sauce, and onion rings on it. There’s also a cocktail called the “Mindfreeze,” which is just vodka and Italian ice. What do you think about those signature items?
I like the names. But what you just told me is not interesting. It sounds like it's creative on the upfront—”Oh, we could call this thing this, how cool is that?”—but then it's just… a barbecue cheddar burger? The name doesn't change the fact that it's a relatively boring burger compared to who is putting it out. It's like, you’re Mindfreak. How is a barbecue cheddar burger going to freak my mind out? It's not. And when it comes to cocktails, it's such a disappointment, because there are so many awesome things happening in the world of cocktails in general. I've seen cocktails that when you pour in the final ingredient, it changes the whole color of the cocktail right in front of your face. That's magical. That's very Criss Angel. That's a “Mindfreeze.” But an Italian ice with vodka? I could make that at home.
What do you think of Cablp’s overall brand: a fast-casual restaurant, brought to you by a magician, that serves breakfast, lunch, and pizza?
There's a really big opportunity to make up for the name through the lens of Criss Angel's brand and persona. If this thing is highly theatrical, and has a lot of surprising moments, I think it can surpass the disappointment of the name and be something quite brilliant. I gotta say, that's the only chance. Because when I think of Criss Angel, I don't think of an amazing pizza. And pizza is so highly competitive—we all have our pizza brands that we love. It's a really tough thing to break into. But if it's delivered in a way that aligns with Criss’s—should I call him Mr. Angel?—Mr. Angel’s brand, then it could be a winner. Because the restaurant industry is about experiences. You can sell a mediocre product with a superior experience, and you can thrive. So I wouldn't say that this is a hill that can't be overcome. But it is a hill.
If Criss Angel knocked on your door and asked you to help him salvage this restaurant, how would you advise him?
For one, I'd be pretty surprised, because I don't think he uses doors. He probably just appears. But we would start with the question, “Who do you think this is for?” There's a reason why you buy the things that you buy: You're trying to project a persona that you want the world to see. You are curating your persona. And restaurants are very much a part of that. And so with this, going to “Criss Angel’s breakfast, lunch, and pizza”—what is that going to say to the world about this person? How do we reinforce that? How do we tell that story? And that would be the gist of what we get at with him.
Once we find out what that is, we start to develop the full brand strategy and story. We collaborate with the food and beverage people along the way, and inspire them and guide them as well. And that's where cocktail development would come into play. We may name the cocktail. But if the mixologist came to us and said, “It’s going to be vodka and Italian ice,” we would say, “No, it’s not. You're gonna have to figure out something better, because that is not living up to the brand.”
Maybe Cablp is the name that he’s sold on. We would maybe try to back in meaning, outside of “Criss Angel’s breakfast, lunch, and pizza.” Maybe there’s some sort of Latin phrase—I don't know, I’m spitballing. But we would identify the areas of weakness, and we would then work towards finalizing a true brand strategy that we could use as a lens to evaluate these things.
Do you think that Criss Angel might have hired a branding agency, similar to Vigor, that helped him come up with this name and concept?
When you deal with someone who has a strong personality—and I think we could probably infer that Criss does—along with that strong personality comes the belief that they have the Midas touch: that their ideas are successful by the very nature of being their ideas. So if there was an agency, I feel bad for them. Because I guarantee you that he was a difficult client: “This is my way or the highway, and this is the way it needs to be, and I won't hear outside perspectives, because I'm Criss Angel.” I try not to knock agencies who are at the table, because we don't know the dynamic at that table.
Do you think that Cablp is going to succeed or fail—and either way, why?
His name is only going to take it so far. At first, it may look busy, because it is Criss Angel’s concept. But give it three or four months, and I think that starts to wear off. Especially as reviews come out: “I was excited about Criss Angel’s restaurant, and then it was actually boring. Yeah, they have a magician walking around, but so what? The burger is just a cheddar burger and I paid 25 bucks for it.” The only way it makes it past year one is if whoever is behind the finances—and Criss himself—if they're bullheaded, and they want to keep shoveling money into it.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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